Grooving acrylic using a hot wire

posted Aug 31, 2012, 8:55 PM by Tiberius Brastaviceanu   [ updated Jun 8, 2013, 10:55 AM ]

heating wire in between 2 acrylic plates, clamp to press the two plates, connected to the power supply


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This document shows you a simple way to create a small and smooth groove on the surface of a piece acrylic. We use these grooves for optical fibers alignment, you might want to use them for something else. 

The idea is to use a hot wire to dig the grove by melting the surface of the acrylic. We'll heat the wire (nickel-chrome) by passing an electrical current through it, using an adjustable power supply (in the background of the picture).
 










1) In this trial we used two acrylic plates with a wire sandwiched in between them. The wire was stretched on a mount 

heating wire in between 2 acrylic plates, gap before heating
2) Oil was introduced in between the plates in order to avoid gluing of the two plates. In the picture below you can see the oil line right next the the wire, in between he plates. During the heating process
3) Pressure is applied to the plates using a clamp. 






heating wire in between 2 acrylic plates, clamp to press the two plates
4)  The temperature of the wire is raised by increasing the current into the wire. ATTENTION: increase the current very slowly until you see that the wire starts melting the surface. If the temperature is too high the acrylic will make bobbles. You need to keep the temperature right above the melting point. Monitor the edge of the plates to know when to stop the process. heating wire in between 2 acrylic plates, gap before heating
5)  When you think it's done, stop the power supply and apply some force to separate the two plates. This is the result we obtain. Final result, V-groove  

NOTE: the wire melts the surface and digs itself into the surface of the two plates. But material is NOT removed. Excess material is transported outward. Therefore, as you apply pressure while heating the wire the two plates will never close completely. 

See all picture from this experiment
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